One of the leading bloggers on the Israeli Left, Noam Sheizaf, has finally recognized reality--the obstacles to peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not all on the Israeli side but are on both sides. The Israeli Left spends its time combating and deploring Israel's march to the right, so it is perhaps understandable that it misses the fact that the Palestinians are even more nationalistic. This is usually excused by the occupation when pointed out. The Palestinians believe that the occupation is a moral "get out of jail free card" that excuses any number of sins such as terrorism, irredentism, fascism, and a complete lack of political realism. No wonder the Israeli Left has problems convincing the Israeli Right (which has its own narcissistic agenda) of this! But in a recent post, No More Peace Plans Please, Noam recognized that the problem was not one of producing a compromise that reasonable people could live with, but of finding a way to get two unreasonable and traumatized peoples to conduct fruitful negotiations. Noam finally realized that the time is not ripe for peace.
During the transition to the Obama administration, I wrote a guest column for Dan Fleshler's Realistic Dove blog in which I argued that Obama would simply be too busy with other problems to invest the necessary time and political capital for a serious peace effort in the Middle East during his first term. It now appears that this will likely hold for his second term--if he receives one from the electorate--as well.
To negotiate peace in the relatively simpler and less complex Northern Ireland conflict the British and Irish governments had to focus their attentions on the problem for some 14 years--over three Irish coalition governments and two British governments. The only American administrations that have shown similar dedication to peacemaking in the Middle East were Jimmy Carter during his first two years in office and Bill Clinton during his final year in office. Carter felt he had a religious calling to solve the conflict. Unless we get a similar president--who is a two-term president who can work closely with the European Union, the conflict will remain unsolved. And before such a president can be effective, there must be an end to the power struggle among the Palestinians between Fatah and Hamas. And the Israeli Center must experience a revival to replace the Labor-Meretz Center-Left coalition governments of the Oslo process of the 1990s. That is a tall order.